As the final hours were rapidly ticking away, I’m frantically trying, with the greatest of care possible, to pack the last 30 kg of my possessions as morning approaches. I had already delayed my flight by 24 hours because, one, I had horrifically underestimated the amount of crap HK malls would lure me to take home, and two, I needed my own breathing space. The 400sq flat that I had comfortably inhabited for the past 2 years was not going to be swiftly and neatly packed away with two other adults constantly getting in the way. I blame my fastidious/psuedo-OCD side.
But the main reason was that I really didn’t want to leave. Why? Is it because of the level of convenience and efficiency that can only be surpassed by Japan? Is it because of the endless list of cheap edibles and mouthwatering desserts that make fruit swimming in a pool of gelatine look so delectable? Is it because it only takes a speedy bus ride to see a Red Panda?
As I was indecisively choosing things to pack, I got a text from a dear friend who I really hadn’t been able to spend much time with in the last few busy months. She asked if I needed help packing. I’m not the type of person who likes to ask for help unnecessarily, but I was touched by her offer and invited her over. We spent the next 3 hours tackling my wardrobe, ending up with two huge bags going to charity and the best way to conclude an evening, eating local desserts.
I left on a Tuesday afternoon so none of my friends were able to say their goodbyes in person, which I was relieved about. A doleful parting at the airport between dear ones ranks along with relationship break ups and puppies being abandoned on the roadside. One thought kept on going round in my head – what will I do without my close band of brothers and sisters? Two and a half years isn’t that long from a life-long perspective, but the wonderful individuals I was blessed enough to encounter and grow closer to in that time, taught me more about true friendships than most of the friends I’ve made previously. Even in a bustling people filled city like HK, it’s not easy to build long lasting mutual attachments.
In primary school, I was part of a gang i.e. very girly clique. The five of us didn’t go burning toys or go bullying other kids for their school dinner money, but we did hang out together literally all the time. We’d go frog hunting at the end of the school field, or try to out-scare each other with the ghostly inhabitants in the flats opposite the school. We of course had a leader, Zoe, who was chubby, a spoilt brat and bossed us around. It was over the duration of this strange friendship that I first tasted the sting of backstabbing, two-faced attitudes, bitchy gossip and lies. And defiance as I refused to be sucked into all ‘that’. It prepared me for secondary school where I witnessed far worse treatments between so called friends. It was a good lesson early learnt.
One of the first things I did when I returned to London was to contact one of the girls in the ‘gang’, Helen. We first met in Year 1 of Primary School (she lives less than a mile from me) and then HK took me away for a year shortly after. But on my return, it was like I never left, thanks to Helen. And it is because of Helen, who was unknowingly a large influence in my future passions in British film, TV and their love of all things furry (Helen had 5 Yorkies and an aviary at one point), that I now feel a little of that same comforting feeling of familiarity.
Helen and I really didn’t keep in much contact throughout secondary school as we went to different institutions. Even though I lived just down the road from her, we became pretty much like strangers until we were both in university. And now, as we find we’re both in the same situations, two unemployed teachers, we often meet up in our local grease cafe to just talk and share our troubles. And though I am so far away from my incredible group of friends in HK, hundreds of miles away over earth and sea, I’m happy to say that I’ve been blessed with one friend, who for the last 20 years has not been greatly affected with the tides of life, and I hope, when I come home again, it will still be the same in another 20 years.
Yes that is me, unintentionally as Snow White. Helen’s dad loves to remind me of that time – when my own dress ripped from over-enthusiastic leaping in the bouncy castle so Helen’s mum kindly lent me the dress, which she made by hand. Helen is the girl with her eyes closed, showbiz hand in the air, most likely because we had just finished watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show on VHS (this is her 8th birthday party by the way).